Widgets Magazine

No. 10 Stanford clinches twelfth Pac-12 championship

After losing a bid at the Pac-12 regular-season championship in Corvallis just over a week ago, No. 10 Stanford women’s basketball (28-5, 15-3 Pac-12) took its revenge when it mattered most, clinching the program’s 12th Pac-12 tournament championship in its 16-year history by dramatically topping No. 6 Oregon State (29-4, 16-2) 48-43 with a stingy defensive performance.

Sophomore Alanna Smith was dominant off the bench, leading the Cardinal with 18 points and four blocks. Smith’s aggressive effort on both sides of the ball helped Stanford lock down the Pac-12 title. (RAHIM ULLAH/The Stanford Daily)

The Cardinal looked sluggish and outmatched in the beginning of this Oregon State game. The Beavers defeated Stanford in both matchups earlier this season by three-point margins. When the Oregon State squad knocked down its first six shots from the field, jumping out to a 16-3 lead, it threatened to break the game open before it had even started.

At a timeout break following the early Beaver run, head coach Tara VanDerveer kept the message to her team simple and clear, saying, “Okay, now we have got to work, work, work.”

The Cardinal responded by effectively shutting down Oregon State’s offense from that moment forward, increasing the pressure on every possession as the game flowed. The Oregon State offense went from dropping 22 points in the first quarter to only mustering 21 combined points in the following three quarters.

Stanford’s suffocating defense came from a total team effort in order to shut down All-America guard Sydney Wiese. Cardinal bench sophomores Marta Sniezek and Alanna Smith reminded everybody about VanDerveer’s “different players, different nights” vision by playing critical roles on both sides of the court.

Sniezek finished the night with only two points, but that barely told the story of her night on Sunday as the guard managed to get a hand in Wiese’s face on every single possession in the fateful second half. In addition to her defensive impact, Sniezek’s hustle plays pervaded throughout the game, as the guard dove on loose balls and earned possessions for the Cardinal, ending the night with three rebounds, two assists and two steals.

The biggest impact on the court, however, came from Australian forward Smith, who played significant roles on both sides of the floor. Continuing her hot streak from February — when she was one of three non-starters nationally to average over 13 points a game — Smith led the game with 18 points and four blocks and ultimately became the main reason the Cardinal hoisted the championship trophy yet again.

“Like Tara says every time we practice and every practice, ‘Be aggressive. You just got to attack them,’” Smith said. “That’s what we did tonight and that’s how we got the win.’”

In addition to the sophomore duo, Stanford’s starting seniors also played with an obvious fire throughout the night. Guard Karlie Samuelson and forward Erica McCall, the tournament MVP, played the majority of the Cardinal’s championship win. Samuelson finished with 14 points and three assists, while McCall grabbed eight points and eight rebounds as a menace in the post on Sunday.

“It feels amazing. They’re a great team,” McCall said. “I’m just so proud of how my team came back and competed. We went out there and battled.”

With the win, Stanford ensured that no team has beaten a VanDerveer-led Cardinal team three times in a single season since the legendary Pat Summit and her Lady Vols achieved that feat over two decades ago when Tennessee marched on to take the NCAA title.

As Pac-12 tournament champions, the Cardinal will almost certainly own a top-four seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. Although more postseason action is to come, the Stanford squad can definitely look back proudly at its heightened level of play to win this year’s championship.

“It’s super satisfying,” McCall said. “It’s like tasting your favorite candy.”

 

Contact Lorenzo Rosas at enzor9 ‘at’ stanford.edu.